We created holograms you can touch – you could soon shake a virtual colleague’s hand
The TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced millions of people to the idea of a holodeck: an immersive, realistic 3D holographic projection of a complete environment that you could interact with and even touch.
In the 21st century, holograms are already being used in a variety of ways such as medical systems, education, art, security and defence. Scientists are still developing ways to use lasers, modern digital processors, and motion-sensing technologies to create several different types of holograms which could change the way we interact.
My colleagues and I working in the University of Glasgow’s bendable electronics and sensing technologies research group have now developed a system of holograms of people using “aerohaptics”, creating feelings of touch with jets of air. Those jets of air deliver a sensation of touch on people’s fingers, hands and wrists.
In time, this could be developed to allow you to meet a virtual avatar of a colleague on the other side of the world and really feel their handshake. It could even be the first steps towards building something like a holodeck.
To create this feeling of touch we use affordable, commercially available parts to pair computer-generated graphics with carefully directed and controlled jets of air.
In some ways, it’s a step beyond the current generation of virtual reality, which usually requires a headset to deliver 3D graphics and smart gloves or handheld controllers to provide haptic feedback, a stimulation that feels like touch. Most of the wearable gadgets-based approaches are limited to controlling the virtual object that is being displayed
Controlling a virtual object doesn’t give the feeling that you would experience when two people touch. The addition of an artificial touch sensation can deliver the additional dimension without having to wear gloves to feel objects, and so feels much more natural.
Using glass and mirrors
Our research uses graphics that provide the illusion of a 3D virtual image. It’s a modern variation on a 19th-century illusion technique known as Pepper’s Ghost, which thrilled Victorian theatregoers with visions of the supernatural onstage.
The systems uses glass and mirrors to make a two-dimensional image appear to hover in space without the need for any additional equipment. And our haptic feedback is created with nothing but air.
The mirrors making up our system are arranged in a pyramid shape with one open side. Users put their hands through the open side and interact with computer-generated objects which appear to be floating in free space inside the pyramid. The objects are graphics created and controlled by a software programme called Unity Game Engine, which is often used to create 3D objects and worlds in videogames.
Located just below the pyramid is a sensor that tracks the movements of users’ hands and fingers, and a single air nozzle, which directs jets of air towards them to create complex sensations of touch. The overall system is directed by electronic hardware programmed to control nozzle movements. We developed an algorithm which allowed the air nozzle to respond to the movements of users’ hands with appropriate combinations of direction and force.
One of the ways we’ve demonstrated the capabilities of the “aerohaptic” system is with an interactive projection of a basketball, which can be convincingly touched, rolled and bounced. The touch feedback from air jets from the system is also modulated based on the virtual surface of the basketball, allowing users to feel the rounded shape of the ball as it rolls from their fingertips when they bounce it and the slap in their palm when it returns.
Users can even push the virtual ball with varying force and sense the resulting difference in how a hard bounce or a soft bounce feels in their palm. Even something as apparently simple as bouncing a basketball required us to work hard to model the physics of the action and how we could replicate that familiar sensation with jets of air.
Smells of the future
While we don’t expect to be delivering a full Star Trek holodeck experience in the near future, we’re already boldly going in new directions to add additional functions to the system. Soon, we expect to be able to modify the temperature of the airflow to allow users to feel hot or cold surfaces. We’re also exploring the possibility of adding scents to the airflow, deepening the illusion of virtual objects by allowing users to smell as well as touch them.
As the system expands and develops, we expect that it may find uses in a wide range of sectors. Delivering more absorbing video game experiences without having to wear cumbersome equipment is an obvious one, but it could also allow more convincing teleconferencing too. You could even take turns to add components to a virtual circuit board as you collaborate on a project.
It could also help clinicians to collaborate on treatments for patients, and make patients feel more involved and informed in the process. Doctors could view, feel and discuss the features of tumour cells, and show patients plans for a medical procedure.
Balancing the cost of office space with productivity
Nick Stogdale, Customer Success Director, Irisys
Office buildings are expensive to rent and operate. And while they are designed to enable productive work to happen, their costs need to be balanced against the productivity they deliver.
The assumptions around the importance of office buildings have been challenged during the pandemic. Businesses have seen how encouraging employees to work from home can save office running costs, while realising that their employees can often work very effectively there.
However, they have also been shown the importance of gathering employees together in offices. There is an increasing acceptance that at least some degree of social working is important for employee wellbeing, creativity and team building. The amount of time that employees must spend in an office to maximise their productivity has been questioned.
Getting the right balance between hybrid working practices, the needs of employees and the large costs associated with physical space is tricky. But as Nick Stogdale from Irisys explains, technology can help.
Organisations struggle to understand how their buildings are used. They are constantly asking whether they have too much or too little space. They question whether their space is configured in an optimal way. And they look for ways to manage energy use so that lower costs are combined with a level of employee comfort that encourages maximum productivity.
The pandemic made these questions even more important. Businesses were forced to move to a hybrid workforce with a greatly increased amount of remote working. And when the predicted falls in productivity failed to materialise, many organisations asked: how much office space do we really need?
To answer that, the right data must be available. Without accurate data on how buildings are used, it is impossible to know whether they are currently under-serving or over-serving the business.
Do they provide enough collaborative space? Would more (or fewer) hot desks be useful? Would large conference spaces and meeting rooms be better structured as smaller spaces? And how flexible do office spaces need to be so that they can provide the best environment for employees during a working week where requirements change from day to day?
The biggest expenditure for many organisations is on employees, but this is followed by the cost of office space and the cost of utilities use. It is important for businesses to understand how they can optimise their office spaces both in terms of encouraging employee productivity and reducing running costs such as heating, lighting and air conditioning.
Focus on employees
Buildings don’t just need to work for employers, however. They also need to work for the employees, and many have grown used to working from home. It is often very comfortable and very convenient, with no time taken getting to work and with the ability to manage personal and family tasks during the working day.
How can offices emulate the safe and happy home-working environment? How can they make the office an attractive place to work for employees? How can they meet the demands that employees are increasingly making on their work environments? If these questions are not answered, many employees will simply vote with their feet and move elsewhere.
During the video, Mr Stogdale explains that Irisys has considerable experience measuring the movements of people within buildings. This is done without any impact on privacy by deploying smart IoT sensors that cannot identify individuals.
Sensors are typically placed on the ceiling in key locations, such as the entrances to buildings, floors and rooms. Within rooms, smaller discreet sensors placed underneath desks or tables track occupancy, again without identifying individuals.
This detailed data can then be analysed and used to work out the reality of what’s happening within a building, with 24/7 data available in real-time. Facilities and property managers can make decisions based on evidence rather than assumptions. And, importantly, they can see the effect of any changes they make.
Building a better workplace
Perceptions have changed. Planning office space in the future will not be the same as it was pre-pandemic.
Mr Stogdale gives the example of the National Grid, an organisation with a wide estate. It wanted to understand the reality of how its estate was being used, in part to enable more flexible working. Irisys installed sensors at appropriate points, such as the entrances to floors and rooms. It was quickly realised that many buildings in the estate were not being used as much as had previously been thought. The organisation was able to close two buildings and, as a result, saved $10 million. The low cost of installing sensors delivered a major financial benefit.
Another example is the University of Technology Sydney, where there were plans to build a new lecture theatre. However, after a detailed analysis of footfall, it was clear that the new theatre was unnecessary. The money was freed up to benefit student life in different ways.
Automated people-sensing within buildings has many benefits. Employers can be sure they are not over-investing in office buildings. They can avoid wasting energy on heating areas that are not being used at certain times (becoming more sustainable in the process). And they can optimise building configurations so that collaboration opportunities can be maximised.
There are benefits for employees too. As well as being able to plan meeting times for periods when there will be rooms available or to find places for impromptu team events, they will know when facilities such as gyms and canteens are quiet. All of this will make office life a little less frustrating and a little more pleasant.
Because of the pandemic, the way offices are used is changing radically. It is only by understanding the nature of that change in detail, through the use of appropriate sensor technology, that the demands of a hybrid workforce can be met and the opportunities derived from more flexible working patterns can be realised.
Discover the power of live occupancy data, get a demo of Irisys True Occupancy.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM IRISYS
The future of payroll is FinTech
Society has moved to a more on-demand lifestyle. We look for instant gratification in all areas of our lives and tech-savvy consumers expect immediate access to entertainment, news and financial services at the click of a button. According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, over two-thirds of Americans now use mobile payment apps.
And now traditional functions like Payroll are embracing the on-demand economy and turning to FinTech to revolutionize how companies pay their employees. . In Payroll, advances in software have made consolidation, standardisation and regulatory compliance easier to achieve for payroll practitioners. At the same time, improvements in technology and money movement networks are making it easier for companies to cater to new employee preferences. Employees can now access a ubiquitous mobile app that combines new payment methods to give them on-demand access to what’s rightly theirs: earned wages.
Consumer FinTech and on-demand pay
Most businesses run payroll once or twice a month. But recent FinTech developments have opened up new possibilities for companies to pay their employees on-demand. Employers can offer on-demand pay through a cloud-based money movement solution made accessible to employees as a downloadable mobile app. Employees log in at any time, see how much they’ve earned and draw down their pay when they need it. It provides the freedom to manage financial commitments as needed throughout the month.
Also referred to as earned wage access (EWA) or flexible pay, the service is offered by several solutions specific to a geographical region. But CloudPay recently launched the first global solution for multi-national companies to offer to their employees around the world: CloudPay NOW.
According to EY research in 2020, 80 per cent of individuals indicated they would use a form of on-demand pay. And it’s not just a benefit sought by lower earners or individuals of lesser financial means either. It’s about timing and cash flow. With $756 billion in outstanding credit card debt in the US and £72 billion in the UK, credit cards remain the most common form of debt. So earlier access to earned wages and financial wellbeing tools can address misaligned cash flow and potentially reduce the significant cost of credit card debt for individuals.
The CloudPay NOW app provides easily accessible financial wellbeing tools and information for use while financial decisions are being made.
For businesses, offering EWA as part of a benefits package is an opportunity to provide a high-value benefit for relatively low cost. EWA can demonstrate a company’s commitment to the wellbeing of its workforce, helping employers stand out from the crowd in the competition for talent and talent retention.
Accelerated digital payment methods
Standard payroll payment cycles are typically three days long. But it’s possible to reduce this process to seconds by deploying new card payment methods.
Virtually instantaneous payments to debit and credit cards and e-wallets are made through card rails rather than the traditional banking rails, which take much longer to process.
Businesses can use a single interface to access multiple payment solutions and issue payments to employees, statutory bodies and third parties in hundreds of different currencies around the world.
This virtual world of money movement provides employees a choice of payment types that suit them, and gives employers back-up payment options and a potential reduction in costs.
The added speed from card rails means capital is retained for longer. Payment cycle time is reduced, security is strengthened, and it’s a fast solution for errors.
Global business needs a global payroll system
Global payroll systems have transitioned from local vendor experts providing managed services to aggregator models using middleware and single contracts. But global business really needs one consolidated system of unified tools, workflows, data and people, all using a single source of truth.
Such a unified and standardised system is made possible with the deployment of a global payroll and payments software platform used by all internal and external parties involved in the payroll.
Managing global payroll effectively requires real-time visibility into what’s happening across the entire payroll function. Separated data sources slow down the reporting process and leave analysis wide open for errors.
Once the global payroll system is consolidated into a single platform, next-generation analytics will visualise and interrogate the data in context to deliver tangible business insights that optimise payroll process, deliver workforce analytics and inform hiring decisions and board-room level conversations.
This unified technology approach creates the gold standard in terms of managing global complexity, security and compliance.
Payroll automation and software integrations
Data validation is clearly the bedrock of any payroll system: validating data inputs to calculate pay and data outputs to process the resulting payments.
AI-driven robotic data validation can automate up to 85 per cent of data validation checks. It throws up repeatable exceptions and differences in data inputs and outputs and works to customised payroll controls. Exceptions are therefore flagged up for swift resolution. Software integration is a critical success factor for any business transformation. Integrations between Human Capital Management (HCM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and the payroll platform provide business efficiencies and a superior user experience for employees, such as allowing them to access payslips alongside other key information in a single place.
EWA is the most dramatic development in payroll to date. Driven by consumer demand and technology, it offers a compelling economic case for employers and flexibility and peace of mind for employees. It can be deployed as an addition to an existing payroll system and does not create an additional administrative burden. The risk and investment are low and the benefits to progressive employers and employees are real in terms of employee wellbeing and retention.
FinTech has ushered in a new era for payroll. At CloudPay we think of it as the modern pay experience for employers and employees. Automating and unifying the old manual processes, introducing faster, more flexible payment methods and inventing on-demand pay have made the future of payroll available to us today.
To learn more about earned wage access and CloudPay NOW, visit cloudpay.com
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM CLOUDPAY
How to manage SaaS in the age of distributed work
Productive distributed workforces require a choice of SaaS tooling while maintaining oversight to prevent businesses from drowning in cost and complexity
Transformation is continuous for every business as market conditions and technological advancements are constantly adding new requirements. It’s up to business and IT leaders to create the conditions for embracing continuous change.
New ways of working are at the core of this evolution. The past few years have demanded that leaders across the business embrace new working models and challenges, without dictating to employees where to do their job and when. The future of work must provide freedom to employees in nearly every direction: promoting personal skills, valuing unique life situations, creating trust and enabling continuous communication.
The logical consequence of new work models means that all employees must be empowered to design their workplace flexibly and individually going forward. Workplace flexibility is fuelled by new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools that can easily be signed up for, to connect the business workforce from anywhere in the world.
The explosion of SaaS
SaaS supports nearly every business operation, process, workflow and function today. For years, millions of professionals have used SaaS apps to reconfigure the workplace. From Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Project Management Software to communication and collaboration tools, the adoption of SaaS became nearly unavoidable.
Then, overnight, SaaS became even more important as the shift to remote work forced many businesses to quickly adjust to life away from a corporate office. Some organisations were more prepared to work remotely with the right IT infrastructure already in place, while others were left struggling to ensure people had the tools needed to keep the business up and running.
It is now predicted that by 2023, 86 per cent of companies will run purely on SaaS solutions. As adoption skyrockets, organisations are waking up to find hundreds of SaaS applications in use. While the opportunity to increase employee productivity and efficiency is coveted, SaaS introduces challenges for IT, security, finance and procurement leaders.
SaaS left unchecked
Sprawling and unchecked SaaS consumption make software management impossible as any employee can launch a new SaaS app in seconds via free trials or with a credit card. What most decision-makers don’t realise is that, on average, up to 30 per cent of SaaS spend is wasted because of underused or unused subscriptions, excess licences and overpriced vendors. What’s worse is that 77 per cent of organisations have experienced security incidents directly related to SaaS. It’s nearly impossible to gauge the ROI for overall SaaS usage, as many issues are underestimated or unknown entirely.
Take a minute and ask yourself how much SaaS your organisation is using. We at LeanIX currently spend nearly $2 million on SaaS for more than 360 employees – or roughly $5,000 per employee. Our priorities are to empower employees with the SaaS subscriptions they need without overspending on unused licenses and to proactively manage auto-renewals and tool access when employees leave or change roles. This requires a lot of data delivered to the right people at the right time to make the best decisions for our company.
The challenge for many organisations is that managing SaaS is a game of playing catch-up. Often, we see companies stitch information together with tracking spreadsheets or outdated IT asset management systems. Their SaaS is running unchecked while security, compliance and costs spiral out of control. IT, finance, legal and operations teams are left scrambling to figure out how to wrangle SaaS while removing the tension (or striking a balance) between corporate policies and helping employees succeed with their choice of SaaS tools.
Embracing SaaS management
SaaS management is an emerging practice to help companies gain complete visibility into their SaaS ecosystem and obtain the maximum value from cloud-based software tools. It evolves beyond classic IT asset management frameworks built in the pre-cloud era by creating systematic and easy-to-follow processes for SaaS purchasing, usage and control.
A distributed workforce is increasingly dependent on SaaS solutions for daily work productivity and team collaboration – at any time and from anywhere in the world. Empowering individuals and teams to choose the tools that best fit their workflow needs is only the beginning and requires planning and consideration for how each choice impacts the organisation as a whole.
Businesses must prioritise SaaS management to continuously discover and manage all the SaaS applications they own across their distributed workforce. This visibility allows teams to identify opportunities for cost savings by tracking usage and determining compliance exposures to mitigate risks. Companies that enable this data-driven decision-making can keep SaaS in check as adoption rises and the shift to remote work continues.
To set your course for success download the SaaS Management eBook: The Definitive Guide for IT and Finance Leaders
by André Christ, CEO of LeanIX
Putting the buyer first: how top sale professionals succeed
How can sales intelligence tools and a new approach help build trust with B2B customers in a virtual setting?
IN B2B sales, not unlike in other business areas, the shift to virtual lasted too long and proved too successful to expect any quick rebound to pre-Covid practices. As recent surveys have found, currently only 17 per cent of buyers’ time is spent meeting with potential suppliers in person, and 57 per cent of them are happy to buy from a salesperson they’ve never met face-to-face.
Although acutely aware of this new trend, sales professionals are often oblivious to the new approaches, attitudes and digital tools they need to adopt to thrive in this new medium.
How can information from online professional networks oil the wheels of virtual selling?
The traditional image of the glib salesman flogging ice to Eskimos is already a thing of the past. Today, there are more sophisticated data-driven ways of exceeding sales quotas. Being equipped with and understanding accurate, topical or real-time information ahead of reaching out to or engaging with customers now proves a much more effective way of building rapport.
Corporate decision makers nowadays tend to trust sales professionals who keep their buyers’ and their organisation’s needs in mind throughout the whole customer journey and follow up the deal into the implementation and project evaluation phase. They will gravitate to salespeople who are knowledgeable about the strengths, as well as the limitations, of their offerings, and are ready to walk away from the deal and point the customer to a product of a different provider if they know that it’ll deliver a better solution to their problem.
But it’s not only the client’s company and alternative solutions across the market that the salespeople of the future will need to be conversant with, but also the handful of individuals who typically make up the client’s buying committee and are responsible for the different stages of procurement decision-making.
Buying committees comprise of individuals with different concerns and biases, therefore, it’s essential for the sales professional to collect relevant data about their background to offer tailor-made content or pertinent insights for them. Background searches on a prospect on professional social media platforms such as LinkedIn can also turn cold messaging. This is a popular tactic although it often fails because it skips the necessary steps needed to build buyer-first relationships.
Buyer first selling – a practice, as well as a philosophy
Data collected and analysed by LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, with 774 million members globally, seems to bear out these new trends, with 63 per cent of UK salespeople reporting using LinkedIn as a source of sales intelligence. But the platform has undertaken not only to describe how the shift to effective virtual selling is taking place but also how to spearhead it. In order to turn “buyer first” into an established practice, the company has highlighted the gaping disconnect between buyer expectations and sellers’ presumptions about them. As a recent LinkedIn survey pointed out, while buyers regard active listening as the attribute they value most from salespeople, this quality doesn’t even rank in the top five hiring criteria among recruiters. There is a similar discrepancy in how the two sides see the buyer-first principle prevail. Almost half of the sales professionals participating claimed that they put the needs of their clients’ organisations first. However, only 12 per cent of buyers agreed that this was actually the case. Having identified these gaps, LinkedIn has developed sales solutions tools that enable salespeople to become the kind of informed challengers buyers value most, who can challenge their thinking and come up with ideas that they couldn’t have arrived at themselves – the type that currently only a meagre 10 per cent say they encounter in their professional lives regularly.
Discover how LinkedIn Sales Solutions can empower your organisation to create business opportunities
Welcome to the future of work - and the future of business growth
The future of work is already here, and taking shape all around us. Businesses in the UK are coming to terms with change on almost every front: a new operational landscape; big shifts in priorities for their employees; labour shortages in areas that were rarely identified as risks before. They’re dealing not just with the impacts of the pandemic but with the rolling impacts of Britain’s exit from the European Union.
“Buyers have taken control, shifted their expectations and redefined the role that they expect a salesperson to play. This has changed what it means to build relationships with prospects, and what it takes to close a deal”
In many areas of working life, it’s still not certain what final form this unfolding future will take. We don’t yet know how many employees will return to offices, how willing people will be to travel for meetings or events, whether the current difficulties involved in trading internationally will remain – or how long it will take to fill the gaps that have emerged in the labour market. However, there’s one central area of life where the depth and the duration of the change is already clear. It involves the driving force of business growth: the fundamental relationship between buyers and salespeople.
I’ve had a front-row seat as this relationship has been transformed not just by technology and the pandemic but by a switch in who’s driving the buying process. Buyers have taken control, shifted their expectations and redefined the role that they expect a salesperson to play. This has changed what it means to build relationships with prospects, and what it takes to close a deal.
A new demand from buyers, and a new role for sales
LinkedIn, more than any other platform, is where the transformation of sales has played out. With more than 775 million members and the highest trust levels in social media, it’s where professionals turn for information and inspiration that can move their businesses forward. And it’s therefore the platform that salespeople trust to help them navigate the new landscape. In the UK, 63 per cent of salespeople now use LinkedIn as their source of sales intelligence, which is 50 per cent more than those using any other sales platform or tool.
In many sectors, this has involved a wholesale transformation of the sales process. I’ve watched sales teams for export businesses, whose lives previously revolved around international travel and events, reinvent how they prospect, gather insight and build relationships. With the future of large-scale trade fairs still uncertain, they’ve turned to sales intelligence tools to fill the gap. In doing so, they’ve found that they are able to reach out with a more informed proposition from the start.
This matters, because buyers are no longer prepared to give up their time for salespeople who don’t already know about their business. They’ve learned that virtual buying is self-directed buying, in which they no longer have to depend on salespeople as a source of
information. That means they no longer need to give up their time to go through the salesperson’s process – or fit in with the salesperson’s agenda. If they’re to take a meeting, on Teams, Zoom or in person, they want to be rewarded with value they couldn’t have generated for themselves through a Google search or a visit
to the company website. In the UK, 80 per cent of B2B buyers say they’re more likely to consider products and services from a salesperson who challenges their way of thinking – but only 46 per cent say this often happens.
Buyers don’t just want advisors. They want advocates who are ready to work for their interests. That’s why the most successful UK salespeople are almost twice as likely as their peers to put the needs of the buyer ahead of their own. They know that the right to engage with buyers involves embracing the future of work – and the new role of sales that comes with it.
Hybrid workers: trusted, flexible and productive
The past 18 months have ushered in the world’s biggest experiment in remote working. The Covid-19 pandemic meant firms of all sizes were forced to transition to working from home almost overnight, drawing on only relatively recent advances in technology.
Now, as the world slowly starts to return to more normal conditions, businesses are starting to think about how to structure themselves, factoring in both the needs and desires of employees with their own considerations around workplace culture, productivity and cost.
“The workplace is undergoing its biggest change in a generation and businesses are grappling with how they operate in the future,” says Janine Chamberlin, UK country manager at LinkedIn. “Over the past 18 months, employees have shown that they can be trusted to work productively from home, and now they want greater flexibility around where and when they work.”
A recent survey from LinkedIn found that nearly half (49 per cent) of UK salespeople would prefer hybrid working – where some time is spent in the office and some at home – in the future, compared with 38 per cent who want to work remotely, and just 12 per cent who would prefer full-time office working.
This has inevitably had an impact on all areas of a business, not least the critical sales function. “The pandemic has completely normalised virtual conversations and virtual selling,” says Nick Gallimore, director of talent transformation and insight at performance management software company Clear Review. “The benefits to the customer or prospect are significant, as they no longer need to be physically present, and the benefits to the seller are huge, with the time-saving alone on not having to travel as much meaning they can spend more time selling.” And time saving is important: sellers report spending barely a third of their time actually selling, so their time is now more precious than ever.
But face-to-face selling will still have a role to play, believes Leeson Medhurst, head of strategy at office design firm Peldon Rose. “The first contact we have with new clients is often over the phone or via email, but meeting them in person is hugely important,” he says. “When it comes to any kind of sales role, it’s important to keep in mind that ‘people buy into people’.”
The shift towards remote or hybrid working has also created challenges for businesses, particularly in ensuring the work environment remains fit for purpose. Telecommunications firm NTT, for instance, has reviewed and redesigned its office space to support more collaboration and connectedness, and is using technology to help ensure the optimum mix between office and remote working for employees.
“We’re using platforms that allow us to know exactly how the office is being used, including who’s coming in and when,” says Marilyn Chaplin, chief HR and sustainability officer. “Our workforce can then plan how to make the most of their time spent in the office to ensure productivity.” Offering
more distributed ways of working, though, has enabled the firm to attract a more diverse employee base, she adds, “from full-time employees to gig workers, across generations and cultures”.
Having people working remotely on a more permanent basis can require some adaptation. Software firm Commvault realised the planned nature of video calls was eliminating the kind of spontaneous conversation or calls that would ordinarily occur in an office setting. “We encouraged more spontaneous calls and conversations between managers and team members,” says Marco Fanizizi, vice president and general manager EMEA. “It required a series of mentality changes to be made to the format of everyday communication to help put people at ease, such as removing the need to have video running.”
There are also concerns over the impact of a blended model on employee wellbeing. “We don’t fully understand the impact of long-term hybrid on the employee experience,” says Gallimore. “Meetings which are currently happening 100 per cent remotely will feel and work very differently when 50 per cent of the people are in the room and 50 per cent aren’t. Going into a half empty office might seem a little depressing for some. This is something employers may wish to consider when setting parameters of hybrid working.”
Simon Blake, CEO of Mental Health First Aid England, points out the importance of staying in touch with staff members working mainly from home. “Checking in with regularly with everyone, not just those who are visible, ensures you keep connected and create an environment where people feel safe and comfortable to express their opinions,” he says.
Any concerns, though, should be set against the benefits that many people have derived from more flexible working arrangements. “All of a sudden people are working where they live, and have realised that it can all be done differently,” says Irene van der Werf, people manager at remote team recruiter Omnipresent. “Some people are simply more productive if, for example, they take a longer lunch break. I see candidates not asking but expecting employers to offer flexible working hours.”
In fact, the combined effect of the pandemic and subsequent “new normal” could be to put more power in the hands of employees. According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, 71 per cent of UK workers want the option to work flexibly and remotely to stay, and 28 per cent expect to leave their employer this year unless this is the case. “If businesses go back to the old ways of working nine to five from an office, employees will vote with their feet,” warns Dan Fish, chief people officer at Invosys.
Organisations, though, need to strike the right balance between ensuring they have the optimum set-up for their employees and remaining productive, efficient and, ultimately, profitable. “Flexibility and balance are the two key factors,” says Dean Rowland, director of digital marketing agency Receptional, which was an early mover in bringing people back into the office and developing a hybrid model. “Over the next few years, we’ll see new tools, new ways of working and new expectations from our people. It’ll be a case of adapting and remodelling until you find the right balance for your business and its talent.”
Why the future of work and workplace flexibility is about choice
For most of the past century, the concept and social construct of where we work has primarily been confined to four walls and a desk. Whether that has been in a private, shared, or open-plan office, the workspace has revolved mainly around an outdated factory-like work model that measures productivity by metrics such as ‘hours put in’ rather than ‘quality of output’.
Today, modern technology and globalised communication systems have allowed us to become a more agile and mobile workforce. Collaboration now happens in real time and from anywhere, through mobile phones, virtual conferences, social media and even in line waiting for a coffee. As a result, the pandemic and the worldwide work-from-home measures have caused businesses and industries to urgently re-evaluate their real estate portfolios, communication channels and infrastructure needs.
Although the skeleton of office spaces hasn’t fundamentally shifted, the design and technology of the infrastructure and the usage of its inhabitants has changed significantly. The Covid-19 pandemic, like other global crises, has been a significant disruptor to the way we work, but it has also been an accelerator of social transformation. Successful companies in the future will be ones that are quick to adopt flexible working practices.
The drivers of workplace changes
During times of uncertainty and economic turbulence, many businesses look to retain as much cash as possible and minimise costs and expenditures. As such, when they downsize, they look to reduce real estate and the expenses that go with it, such as headcount, capital expenditure and operational costs.
However, many companies with long-term, direct-from-landlord fixed leases find themselves unable to adjust their real estate footprint as the markets change. For these reasons, during the global financial crisis of 2008-2010 (GFC), many corporations began to see the potential in leveraging flexible workspaces and the coworking culture that was already blossoming at the turn of the millennium.
“As a solution, flexible workspaces provide ready to use, fully furnished and serviced workspaces for the headcount that’s needed at hand. This gives businesses much more flexibility to scale up or even down, and even to relocate at a relatively short notice compared to a direct lease with a landlord”, said Paul Salnikow, Founder and CEO of The Executive Centre, Asia Pacific’s leading premium flexible workspaces provider. “However, as with many trends, soon after the turbulence of GFC passed, many businesses returned to the old ways of using permanent leases with direct landlords. With Covid-19, however, since the issue is fundamentally one driven by both social wellbeing as well as financial challenge and change, leaders are being forced to relook at how they lead their organisations and people.”
As people are finding success and productivity amid the newly discovered flexible working arrangement, unlike the aftermath of the GFC, many of the social changes will roll over into the “new normal” and flexible working practices will become a part of the working norm in the future of work. In fact, The Executive Centre’s 2020 and 2021 Mid-Year Sentiment Survey found that over 82 per cent of their members stated that flexible workspaces were crucial to their business operations.
One of the reasons for this is that flexible workspaces help recruit from a wider international talent pool for specialist expertise, and help retain top talents by providing greater workplace flexibility. “The talent of the future are expecting flex; whether that’s flexible work hours or locations. And for many business leaders I’ve spoken with, being flexible is no longer an option but a requirement”, said Sheridan Perkins, Property Program Director of Standard Chartered Bank’s Future Workplace, Now program.
Traits of successful flex adopters
To successfully transition towards flexible working practices, companies need to look inward and understand their business requirements and priorities first, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A successful adopter of flex should interview and collaborate with employees extensively, conduct research to make informed decisions, seek external consultations from multiple industry partners, and at the very least understand where its operations needs to be geographically and how the occupants will use that space.
Taking into account the insights from the aforementioned data points can help businesses ascertain the appropriate implementation route for their future workplace strategy. For example, the results can lead to knowing whether your business and employees requires a network of serviced offices or coworking spaces around one central business district, or around the world.
Perkins explained that their strategy for implementing flexible work practices boiled down to three factors: physical, digital and human.
Ultimately, for Perkins, their findings were that the future of work is about empowering their employees with choice and workplace flexibility. In their worldwide employee workplace trends survey of office-based staff found that its teams in countries with weaker infrastructure preferred to return to traditional offices; employees in regions with higher density saw staff wanting to return to either their traditional offices or a flexible workspace away from home. In comparison, employees in countries with an existing flexible working culture and established work-from-anywhere infrastructure saw higher adoption rates for hybrid work models.
Shelley Boland, Head of Property Asia Pacific, Standard Chartered Bank, added, “The industry today is much more open-minded, there is a growing movement and workplace trend where employers are responding to their employees. Organisations are seeing things from the perspective of individual choice. Successful adopters of flex will be those that have the foresight to model and visualise how workplace changes may affect business outcomes, operations and employees. More than that, it’s about being flexible and agile enough to adapt if those models fail.”
Download the whitepaper report for more insights and best practices from Standard Chartered Bank and The Executive Centre’s Future of Work collaboration
Four steps to ready your business for the future of work
For employees around the world, the gradual return to work is far from back to business as usual. Forrester predicts that 70 per cent of companies will pivot to an ‘office plus anywhere’ work hybrid model in which at least some employees can work anywhere they want for part of the week while spending the remaining days in an office.
Just as the workplace itself is changing shape, so too is the working style, technology and management demands of the people within them. Lower talent attrition and better recruitment successes will be driven by the improved employee experience of hybrid work. For employees, offers of increased flexibility and autonomy and lessened commutes will prove an attractive draw. As a result, while the benefits of anywhere-work may appear small at first, the compound effect will accrue over time.
This is a model that even the most reluctant leaders need to embrace to capture an array of business benefits. And yet, jumping quicker than your company is ready for can be just as damaging as not adjusting at all.
Not all companies are ready to seize all the benefits of hybrid work immediately, but there are four steps that leaders can take to determine both how ready they are and what areas require investment to fully support hybrid work.
Ask the right questions – then ask them again
Which roles or functions are suited to anywhere-work? What percentage of employees worked flexibly or remotely pre-pandemic? What percentage of employees could potentially work remotely long term? What’s the relationship between knowledge and frontline workers? How will customers be impacted?
These questions will help to assess your potential readiness. Be aware that the answers might change over time or be impacted by environmental influences, so they need to be regularly revisited.
Reinforce key values at all times
To drive a culture that supports hybrid work, you must reinforce key values. Employees must be able to adapt easily, enabling them to adopt new tools, processes and values at work. They must feel happy and proud to work for your company.
Burnout is common among remote workers, so companies need to be alert to the signs and focus on programmes that encourage balance, as well as investing in engagement and motivation initiatives to keep teams connected and charged.
Stay true to your business goals
To gain maximum benefit from anywhere-work, your business needs to align with the goals that will drive value in the first place. In the context of your business, how important are goals relating to employee performance and retention, customer experience, recruiting the best talent, cutting office rental costs and securing business continuity? Then ensure you have metrics in place to measure, track and understand them over time.
Equip your business for anywhere-work
For hybrid work, it’s critical to reach a level of technological maturity around key tools, keeping employee experience front and centre. Leaders should focus on collaboration tools, conference room technologies, cloud and software-as-a-service and security technologies to underpin successful distributed work. Furthermore, employees must have access to personal technologies such as laptops, webcams and 4G/5G to equip them for success.
Ultimately, assessing your readiness will be the start of a conversation among leaders and employees that defines the best path forward for returning to the workplace. But don’t think of it as a one-time event – this is going to be an ongoing work in progress.
Forrester’s Anywhere-Work Calculator is a tool to help to assess factors such as the percentage of employees who can potentially work remotely and how technologies stack up in terms of collaboration and security. Ultimately, organisations that do this right will be the most productive and empathetic, creating a workplace that drives deep employee engagement and delivers on business goals.
by JP Gownder, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Forrester
Are we in danger of missing the technology opportunity?
It has been estimated by McKinsey that about half of the activities people are paid to do today have the potential to be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technology.
Opening his talk to the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management Conference (IWFM) earlier this year, tech strategist Antony Slumbers suggested it was inevitable that anything structured, repeatable or predictable will eventually be automated. Slumbers was speaking barely a year after the IWFM published a report, Embracing Technology to Move FM Forward, where we asked facilities practitioners to assess what impact emerging technologies will have on their profession in the coming decade.
In the world according to McKinsey and Slumbers, the results were a bit of a worry. Only when it came to the most familiar tech tools, or those already in their operating sphere, could our respondents foresee their playing a significant part in the future. Technologies such as building management systems, building information modelling, computer aided facilities management and integrated workplace management systems were ranked highest by over half of respondents, with a nod to people analytics and cloud computing.
Outside that list were big data, machine learning, automated vehicles, and even robotics. Less than a year before we published our report, Harvard researchers had described AI, specifically machine learning, as the most important general-purpose technology of our time.
We also asked facilities professionals to rank four possible tech futures in order of their likeliness to occur. Most favoured an incremental digital upgrade (broadly the same as now but with more technology), with some suggesting more radical change through a digital reinvention (a move to data science and analytics). In third place was an incremental digital downgrade (marginalisation and deskilling) and the least likely of all was the radically negative digital displacement (facilities management ceasing to exist).
If humans are hardwired for optimism, this pattern is typical: every entity prefers to imagine a positive future for itself, rather than entertain the idea of extinction, right?
However, Slumbers believes this will have a massive impact, and not necessarily in the way we expect. Artificial intelligence has vast capabilities – of perception, communication, knowledge, reasoning, planning, predicting – and great segments of the work which workplace and facilities professionals do in their roles are perfect for it. But what is absent from all this, he says, and the reason work is changing, is because of one thing: creation. Computers are rubbish at creation and humans are very good at it.
So, the change we will see, he argues, is between old work (structured, repeatable, predictable) and new work (design, imagination, inspiration, empathy, social intelligence).
The future-proof workplace must be designed for this new work: one which fosters skills for collaboration, interaction, learning and engaging – human work, in other words.
The trick to riding the technology wave, rather than reacting to it, will be changing the workplace mindset from one which sees technology as helping to do a job (such as managing a building) to redefining the job as one which helps everyone else do theirs (such as enabling communities). The move towards a more service-focused mentality is not new, but it presents a new opportunity for this relatively young profession, allowing it to begin to show, in real terms, how it can contribute to organisational performance. Technology can be a key driver of that – it’s already profoundly changing our private lives and has begun to shape our ways of working.
Technology presents amazing opportunities, but the very best can only come from those opportunities if, instead of focusing on what we do, we pay more attention to the why.
If facilities professionals could begin to reimagine their roles in terms of what technology could do to enhance the workplace experience, they would not only consider tools that support the built environment, but also those that might radically alter the workplace experience beyond the next decade.
Our new collaboration with Microsoft, connecting workplaces, will explore a shared vision of the role of technology in high-performing workplaces. Building on the challenges identified in our initial research, we aim to help organisations create connected and successful workplaces.
Discover more about our research: Embracing Technology to Move FM Forward
by Chris Moriarty, Director of Insight and Engagement, IWFM
Hybrid working: how to make it a success
Flexibility has become a key element in the world of work. Even before the pandemic hit, many jobs were designed to provide greater choice about how, when and where they could be done.
Now the notion of “hybrid working”, which combines time working from home and time in physical proximity to colleagues at a workplace, is expected to be a popular option for many employees as companies seek to attract them back to the office.
Some employers are reducing their office space or even closing locations in anticipation of a long-term switch to hybrid and home working. In countries such as the UK, there has even been discussion of a legal provision of the right to work at home.
But hybrid working is by no means an easy fix. It is unfamiliar to lots of organisations, and could be seen by some as an unsatisfactory compromise. Making it work requires communication and planning on both sides – and an acceptance that things have changed since Covid-19.
Proportions of workers reporting home as workplace in the UK
As a starting point, research seems to support greater flexibility and its impact on improved work-life balance and productivity (while not forgetting the downsides such as isolation and a blurring between home and work).
Flexibility of this kind can provide staff with greater autonomy, which can significantly enhance wellbeing. However, the relative effectiveness of such schemes is dependent on workloads – often the need to get work done can lead to holidays and time off being interrupted. To this end, the European parliament recently voted for the introduction of a right to not be contactable outside of working hours, which could deliver real benefits to employees.
It’s also important to remember that working from home has not improved work-life balance or leisure time benefits for everyone. Some have encountered more intense patterns of work with reductions in commuting time simply swapped for more time working.
And while some have benefited from greater control over the scheduling of work, others have been subject to high levels of surveillance and heavy workloads.
Evidence also points to difficulties including loneliness, a lack of emotional connection to others, and increases in stress. These effects are important from an employee wellbeing perspective, and also in the wider context of the potential loss of idea sharing, innovation and creativity from not gathering workers together physically.
Best of both?
That said, recent studies suggest a definite preference among many to continue working from home at least some of the time. In one survey of remote workers in Australia, Canada, the UK and US, respondents said their productivity had either remained the same (47 per cent) or increased (35 per cent).
The emerging pandemic evidence suggests that flexibility can deliver a positive outcome for workers, organisations and society, but this is highly dependent on the way it is applied.
For instance, neither working from home or from an office is, by definition, better for employees or employers. Good work can be done at either location. Hybrid models offering time spent in both are likely to be preferred by many people, but again application is key and there is likely to be considerable variation in experience.
Effective hybrid working effectively requires formal flexible working policies to be updated, while recognising that a one-size-fits-all approach rarely actually fits anyone. It is therefore important for employers to make these policies flexible and discuss with employees their preferences and needs, but also for both parties to be realistic about what work can and cannot be done remotely.
It is essential to make sure that both remote and employer workplace locations are properly equipped so that work in any location remains productive. In the medium to longer term, job design can be revisited offering even greater potential for jobs to be approached in flexible ways, including focusing more on delivery of outputs and less on time spent in work or in a particular location.
But it is also true that not all work can be conducted remotely, or all of the time, and that not everyone can or wants to work from home. Organisations should develop policies acknowledging the diverse needs of the workforce and flexibility should be employee-focused wherever possible to create the best outcome for workers, organisations and society.
Consumer behaviour has changed forever in a world of digital choice
For the past 18 months, we’ve relied on applications and digital services in almost every aspect of our lives – to stay connected with loved ones, access critical services, keep entertained and, of course, to work remotely. Applications have become a lifeline to normality for people all over the world during the pandemic. It’s almost impossible to imagine how we would have navigated it without them.
A recent AppDynamics report, The App Attention Index 2021: Who Takes the Rap for the App? revealed that the number of applications people are using has soared by 30 per cent when compared with two years ago.
Lockdowns have forced many people to explore applications and digital alternatives they might not have considered otherwise. In fact, 84 per cent of people report that digital services have had a positive impact on their lives during the pandemic, enabling them to get through this challenging period and to cope and function in most areas of their lives – both inside and outside of work.
A new landscape of digital alternatives
Even once the pandemic has finally passed, consumers won’t simply switch back to the habits they had in 2019 – in fact, 88 per cent of people expect their reliance on digital services to stay the same or increase over the next 12 months.
This is primarily because the pandemic has proved to people that in almost every part of their lives, there is now a convenient and effective digital alternative to the old ways of doing things. They had no choice but to rely on applications during the pandemic but, in doing so, people have actually come to recognise the benefits digital services can offer in their busy lives, whether that’s doing exercise classes at home, ordering the grocery shopping or accessing healthcare services through an online GP.
Consumers will continue to have this option of using applications. From now on, there will always be a genuine choice to make in how we do things, between the online and offline worlds. For many people, this will mean reconfiguring working habits, changing travel and commuting patterns, and rethinking how they communicate with colleagues, friends and family.
Our attitudes and behaviours towards digital services have changed forever, and these shifts will have significant consequences for the brands we interact with every day.
Opportunity and risk for application owners and brands
In this new environment of “digital alternatives”, brands have a massive opportunity to drive customer loyalty by providing consumers with the faultless and engaging digital experiences they have come to expect and rely on over the past 18 months.
Already, we’re seeing consumers looking favourably on brands that have innovated at speed to deliver applications that supported them through the pandemic and enabled them to access the services they love and rely on. More than two-thirds of consumers (67 per cent) say that some brands have gone above and beyond with the quality of their digital service during the pandemic, and it has positively impacted their loyalty to that company.
On the other hand, application owners need to consider the implications of delivering anything other than a seamless digital experience.
As consumers have become more sophisticated in their use of applications, and been exposed to the very best digital experiences, they’ve come to understand what digital services can and should be like in 2021. Expectations have risen dramatically and, at the same time, tolerance for poor digital experiences has diminished. Sixty-one per cent of people say their expectation of digital services has changed forever during the pandemic and that they won’t tolerate poor performance anymore.
One-shot for brands to deliver incredible digital experiences
When consumers encounter problems with an application – and it really doesn’t matter to them what the cause of the issue is – they now take it almost as a personal affront. Many feel that it is disrespectful for brands to be delivering poor digital experiences in the current environment.
People are no longer willing to make allowances or to give second chances. In fact, 57 per cent of people state that brands have only one shot to impress them and that if a digital service does not perform, they won’t use it again.
That’s the situation that application owners now face. Even the smallest slip-up in performance can lead to more than half of their customers walking away, quite possibly never returning.
Responding to soaring consumer expectations
As the pressure grows on application owners to deliver flawless digital experiences at all times, it’s essential that they have real-time visibility into IT performance. Technologists have recognised the need to monitor the full IT estate, from traditional legacy IT systems to newer hybrid cloud environments. This concept is known as full-stack observability – the ability to monitor the entire IT stack, from customer-facing applications down to core network and infrastructure, and it’s vital for technologists wanting to identify and fix performance issues before they adversely affect customers and the business.
But on its own, full-stack observability isn’t enough to tackle the layers of complexity now engulfing IT departments. Across an increasingly sprawling IT estate, with IT departments being overwhelmed by a constant deluge of data, technologists need a business lens on IT performance data to cut through the noise and pinpoint the data that really matters most.
They need to understand which issues could have the biggest impact on customers and the business so that they can best prioritise their actions. Full-stack observability with business context is critical to meet soaring consumer expectations. By connecting full-stack observability with real-time business metrics, technologists can optimise application performance at all times and ensure they’re able to meet heightened consumer expectations.
By doing this, application owners can set themselves up to exploit new opportunities in a world of digital alternatives and deliver incredible application experiences to customers.
by James Harvey, EMEAR CTO, Cisco AppDynamics
Finding, and keeping, the right people when talent is scarce
The Covid-19 pandemic has made the longstanding talent scarcity problem even more acute. In manufacturing, for example, the problem is reaching a crisis point, with most organisations that manufacture goods struggling to resource their operations. Across multiple geographies and sectors, increasing demand is creating vacancies that talent acquisition teams simply can’t fill – on both the permanent and contingent workforce.
This high demand/low supply dynamic is creating a candidates’ market, as individuals with highly sought skills enjoy more choice than ever before about who they work for. The result? Rising wage inflation and a worrying trend of desperate employers offering attractive incentives to secure available candidates.
But these financial incentives, or “golden hellos”, are clearly an unsustainable, short-term fix for what is a chronic issue. From a retention point of view, they’re also likely to be counterproductive. Workers who accept a role purely on the promise of a one-off financial boost are likely to move on to the next highest bidder at the first available opportunity.
So what should employers be doing instead to attract and retain the people they need in such a sparse and competitive market for talent?
First, organisations must develop compelling talent acquisition strategies that are based on far more than financial rewards. The starting point for this employer value proposition, or EVP, is one simple question: why should an in-demand candidate choose to work for us instead of the competition?
The answers will differ for contingent and permanent workers but, in both instances, they will incorporate elements such as your corporate values; learning, development and progression opportunities; flexible working arrangements; your technology stack; opportunities to do meaningful work; and your approach to collaboration and line management. An important step for many organisations right now is to recognise that contingent workers value these things just as much as their permanent counterparts do – and that both are equally scarce right now.
The second part of an effective attraction and retention strategy is finding the right route to market. While talent scarcity is very real, it’s also true that many organisations could combat this to some extent by broadening their horizons – both in terms of who they want to attract, and how they do it.
A tight market for talent can often be eased with relatively simple measures. Modifying pre-employment screening processes, for example, can open a wider pool of talent. Suppliers that specialise in recruiting historically overlooked segments of the workforce – talented mothers looking to return to work, minority groups, former members of the armed forces, people with past convictions – can also help organisations find the talented people they need in places they hadn’t previously thought to look.
These steps can be truly transformative when taken in partnership with an experienced workforce solutions provider. By leveraging that provider’s access to a supply chain of specialist recruiters and technology to unlock overlooked talent, and expertise in designing and implementing compelling EVPs for both permanent and contingent workers, organisations can start to overcome the challenges of talent scarcity – and perhaps find that talent isn’t quite as scarce as they imagined.
It all adds up: why micro delays are hampering your businesses productivity
Some days, it feels like we start Zoom and never shut it down. Between morning updates, coffees with co-workers, presentations and even after-work socialising, we are more online than ever. And we’re really feeling it, too.
The fact is that online fatigue, or online burnout, is real – and it can be detrimental to your workforce. A great starting point to fighting fatigue could include planning fewer meetings, building in breaks between meetings, and designing processes to maximise the flow of work.
Let’s home in on that last point, though. What does it mean to design processes to maximise the flow of work? In my opinion, you can’t have a conversation about flow without first thinking about attention fragmentation.
What is attention fragmentation?
We depend on technology a lot. We use it for almost every part of our “technical” work, in addition to the “human” work of hosting meetings, attending conferences or sharing a coffee break. In many ways, we now rely on technology to do almost everything related to work.
Interruptions, even a tiny interruption (which we’ll explore a bit more later), can result in a cluster of distractions that takes your attention and splits it into multiple pieces. It also involves the time it takes to pick those pieces back up again.
In an environment where there is little to no separation between our work life and online life, our attention is not only more valuable than ever, but more under threat. We need time to focus on our work, but at the same time, we’re facing a wave of interruptions.
Ultimately, it matters because your attention is everything. It’s how you focus your time to be productive, and a loss of attention bears both a psychological and a business cost. It all starts with what experts call “micro delays”.
What is a micro delay?
Think of it this way: you’re at your computer, hard at work on something, and a notification pops up on your screen. You need to provide feedback on an important presentation.
Next, you get an email that you have a performance review you need to complete. Then, your phone buzzes or you need to quickly answer an important message that just came in.
All these distractions, coming at you from all angles, pull you away from your work. Each one represents a micro delay, and although they seem small they have a cumulative effect across your business.
In fact, did you know that each micro delay can be quantified? One micro delay is worth approximately 36 minutes of time (considering not only the time the delay takes but the time it takes to get back into the flow of work).
So all of a sudden, three micro delays turn into more than an hour and a half of lost work. With 12 micro delays, your whole morning is a wash. While each delay may seem insignificant on its own, it can really start adding up.
Why do micro delays matter?
While technology can be incredibly beneficial, your technology ecosystem and ways of working may not be well designed for a human-centric workforce.
According to a recent study performed by Personio (Counting the Cost: How Businesses Risk a Post Pandemic Talent Drain), an average of six tools for people-related tasks and insights are required by companies across Europe.
Technology can help with nearly every aspect of work, but too much technology can have the opposite effect, resulting in too many tools, too many logins, and too much time spent switching between them (and the time lost in that process).
“All of these distractions, coming at you from all angles, pull you away from your work. Each one represents a micro-delay, and although they seem small they have a cumulative effect across your business.”
It even helps to think of the switch between platforms as a micro-delay in and of itself. That adds up to 36 minutes of uninterrupted focus lost to switching between tools or a quick task such as an approval or comment.
Worse yet, we start to get used to the fragmentation of our attention, looking for those quick tasks that let us skim the surface of real work without achieving the flow that is required for deep problem-solving.
What’s the next step?
Let’s start by thinking about all the different applications that an average employee might work with, on any given day, at your organisation.
One employee might find themselves tracking their time; a hiring manager might be logging onto their recruiting tool; or a team leader may be doing some online training or conducting a performance review. Someone else might be submitting an expense report.
This is a handful of possibilities, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. So, when we think about handling fragmentation, we need to think about both centralising and optimising tools and workflows to minimise interruptions.
Unlocking your productive potential
When it comes to solutions, the fact is that you might be spreading your workforce too thin. This might cause more distractions, less focused work, and more micro delays that simply get in the way of the best work being done.
So it’s not simply about digitising things, it’s about doing so in a way that keeps the human element top of mind. For this to work, you need to focus on the right tools to design “human-centric” workflows.
This way, your solutions are exactly that: solutions. They shouldn’t hold back your workforce. Instead, they need to help unlock its full potential.
by Laura Schroeder, Head of Brand and Comms, Personio, Europe’s most valuable HR tech company.
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM PERSONIO
What UK employees expect from organisations in 2021
In our recent Employee Expectations 2021 Report, we analysed more than 150 million employee survey responses from around the world to uncover the common themes impacting employee engagement – and which hold the key for organisational success in the coming months.
UK employees face similar challenges to their international peers with regards to health and wellbeing and flexible work and are calling for organisations to provide more support for diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) as well as future growth opportunities.
These findings are based on 12 million responses from more than 140,000 employees across more than 300 UK companies. They reveal unique insights into how organisations can support their people to perform at their best.
Diversity, equity and inclusion remains a key issue
The proportion of UK employee comments on the topic of DE&I increased by 31 per cent in 2020, compared with a 38 per cent year-on-year increase globally. These increases are closely linked to social movements such as Black Lives Matter, which first appeared in an employee comment on 1 June 2020.
The increase in DE&I comments was lower in the UK than it was in the US, where we saw a 48 per cent rise.
Regardless of magnitude, conversations on diversity and racial biases perpetuated across the year in the UK – and increased rapidly following the globalisation of the Black Lives Matter movement in June 2020.
“Conversations on diversity and racial biases perpetuated across the year in the UK”
The evolution of when and where we work
The proportion of comments about remote or flexible work support increased by 47 per cent in the UK last year, compared with a global increase of 125 per cent. This might seem low in comparison with the global increase, but UK employees were already talking about flexible work before the pandemic – a significant and ongoing trend that needs to be addressed.
Spikes in comments on this theme aligned with global lockdowns, with nearly 25 per cent of all the comments on remote and flexible work occurring in April and May.
A concerning lack of growth conversations
Comments related to growth in the UK decreased by 8 per cent in 2020 compared with the previous year, highlighting a trend of fewer growth conversations.
In the context of a global pandemic and struggling global economies, there were fewer opportunities for growth in 2020, with many employees also less likely to start a conversation about career progression in the face of ongoing uncertainty.
The average growth score of employees that remain with a business is 13 per cent higher than that of departing employees. Growth is also a key predictor in our attrition algorithm, and the second-best after organisational loyalty – making it essential for retaining top talent.
How to respond in 2021 and beyond
The findings of this year’s report highlight not only the fundamental needs of employees (inclusion and growth) but also the fact that employee expectations are tightly interwoven with the current social climate (wellbeing and flexible working).
With each passing year, employee expectations will continue to evolve, meaning the employee experience needs to become a core part of any organisational strategy.
by Patrick Cournoyer chief evangelist at Peakon, a Workday company
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM PEAKON
How the pandemic has altered the sales landscape
The past 18 months have pushed many businesses into a head-spinning state of rapid change. The abrupt end of face-to-face interactions forced companies to look to digital tools to help streamline their processes and keep their workforces engaged. McKinsey reports that three-quarters of B2B decision-makers currently prefer digital self-service and virtual engagement with salespeople, and Sales Enablement PRO found that having highly engaged employees correlates with a 30 per cent improvement in quota attainment.
However, with change comes risk, especially in the world of sales. Sales leaders need consistency and predictability as they navigate unpredictable times. Your organisation’s revenue depends on it.
The pandemic has forced rapid evolution in many industries, though there is a difference between a hasty decision and an agile one. An agile decision is strategic and scalable. It is also based on data and is subject to rigour. Though change can be challenging at first, and the agile decisions will pay off long-term. It is what sets apart good and great sales organisations. Sales leaders at agile organisations are asked by peers at organisations that make hasty decisions about how they did it.
Many companies were forced to make hasty decisions in 2020, as uncertainty clouded the waters of just about every industry. Though rushed decisions may sometimes pay off, they are often harder to replicate and scale if the sales team doesn’t have a thorough understanding of why they led to success. That is why data-backed insights are imperative. This information is the difference between sales teams where reps consistently hit targets and those who struggle.
An agile solution for moving targets
But how can we steward our teams amid so many unknowns, be agile and ensure our strategic decisions are scalable and effective? This is where the practice and technology of sales enablement can assist companies looking to map their strategic initiatives to training, marketing content and sales analytics. By doing so, you can create scalable and repeatable processes, driving consistent behaviour for salespeople. In essence, it is about writing a recipe that you know works.
When done well, sales enablement drives revenue, rep attainment and retention of talent. In one study, businesses with a formal enablement charter, vision and strategy achieved 12 per cent higher win rates and a 35 per cent increase in the number of salespeople achieving quotas compared with those without.
A good sales enablement tool is about optimisation, scale and precision. While every team will have high performers who have already acquired the behaviours to consistently hit their goals, many salespeople struggle to get their footing, leading to an average of 30 per cent seller turnover every year. A sales team with a robust sales enablement strategy can dramatically reduce this through the creation and delivery of a comprehensive onboarding programme that arms new salespeople with what they need to understand what to know, say, show and do in every selling scenario. This makes sellers more effective faster, which has a knock-on impact on team morale and average rep attainment, retention and customer experience.
“The pandemic has forced rapid evolution in many industries, though there is a difference between a hasty decision and an agile one”
Sales enablement in action
Let’s examine what this looks like in reality. Your company is trying to launch a new product. Many members of your sales team continue to work remotely, so how do you get everyone rapidly educated on the new product features across so many schedules and time zones? How do you land new marketing content? How do you prepare salespeople to make effective calls and send compelling emails to buyers? And how do your managers identify those who are struggling and then coach and guide them towards a more effective approach?
The rise of sales enablement platforms has delivered an effective answer to all the above. By providing salespeople with content, guidance, training and coaching in one easy-to-use tool, you can quickly and effectively translate strategic initiatives such as a new product launch into bite-sized best practices. Sales enablement tools give your teams one source of truth while providing insights into your team’s performance, allowing them to reinforce winning sales behaviours at scale. According to LinkedIn, the tools a salesperson relies on are closely correlated to their sales performance. Its report notes that 77 per cent of sales professionals say their sales organisation plans to invest “significantly more” in sales intelligence tools. To convince buyers to move through the sales process, your salespeople need to feel confident and ready to engage buyers. This is best accomplished by arming them with new tools and training that are dynamic, digital and easy to use.
From handshakes to webcams
Video conferencing has come a long way in the past year, but even if sales managers could record and review every call, that is not a scalable solution. But by arming sellers with the right content at the right time through dynamic sales plays, you can use analytics to measure the business impact of everything from content to sales training.
Without the opportunity to meet buyers in person, salespeople must ensure they clearly demonstrate their value during every buyer interaction. Forrester finds that 74 per cent of buyers choose to move forwards with the seller who first demonstrates value and insight. It is crucial that your salespeople provide valuable information from the very first interaction with their customers.
At its core, sales enablement is about equipping your team with what they need, when they need it and then optimising based on data through focused training and coaching. Every sales leader should be able to answer the following questions: does my team understand the overall strategy? Are they executing that strategy? Is the strategy delivering revenue results? Sales enablement is the difference between driving change that is effective and repeatable and change that fails to deliver results. In our current business climate, sales enablement is the key to making the agile decisions that drive revenue instead of hasty ones that may leave your team struggling to keep up.
by Andy Champion, VP and general manager, EMEA at Highspot
When it comes to branding, you simply can’t fake it
Branding agency Siegel+Gale’s EMEA president Philip Davies caught up with Rajashree R, CMO of Tata Consultancy Services, to reflect on TCS’s recent rebrand.
While the rest of the world was getting busy working from home last year, Rajashree R, chief marketing officer of Tata Consultancy Services, and her global team, got together with branding experts Siegel+Gale in London to work on a new brand interpretation for Tata Consultancy Services, the management consultancy and IT services part of the Tata Group.
Rajashree didn’t just want to redesign the brand, though – she wanted to reimagine the future of the organisation for a new era in a style true to TCS – one that was imaginative, bold, colourful and progressive.
Working closely with the design team at Siegel+Gale, Rajashree steered the development of the brand to ensure it connected with colleagues, clients, customers and communities locally and globally.
A brand that’s a big deal in IT
To give you a sense of scale, TCS employs 500,000 people around the globe. With its biggest market in the United States, Europe and the UK, TCS is the largest IT services company in the world, operating in 149 locations across 46 countries. It’s huge.
On 8 October 2020, TCS surpassed Accenture to become the world’s most valuable IT company, with a market cap of $144.73 billion. On 25 January 2021, TCS again surpassed Accenture briefly with a market cap of $170 billion. The same day, TCS became India’s most valuable company, surpassing Reliance Industries with a market cap of $180 billion.
As Rajashree says, “understanding the responsibility of what we’re doing is of real consequence.” By the time Siegel+Gale was engaged, Rajashree had already launched a new purpose statement, “Building for Belief”, which made an instant and positive impact with employees.
Such was the enthusiasm for the statement that Rajashree received numerous interpretations of what it meant to people at TCS, ranging from paintings depicting those “moments of belief” for individuals to framed, illustrated poems and even cakes.
Our earliest conversation with Rajashree provided the openness she had to the challenge of change and the insight to what would unlock the design story. “As a client, you have to be very sure of what you want,” says Rajashree. “When I close my eyes and think about Tata Consultancy Services, I ask myself what images and emotions come to mind.”
The emotional factor
For a firm such as TCS, more accustomed to dealing in data and facts, the notion of emotion was refreshing and differentiating. Rajashree wanted to “develop the true character of the brand, through emotion, colour and in doing so, become more aspirational and human.” She also recognised the need to build a pop culture, because “when you have 500,000 people you need a pop culture!”
It was this expression of ambition and impact that Rajashree wanted for the new TCS brand that was reflected in her love of the lyrics to Katy Perry’s song Roar: “I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter. Dancing through the fire. ’Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar”
Rajashree wanted to be “authentically bold”, to make a brand roar: what a brief!
For a brand consultancy with a philosophy of simplicity and an evidence-based process, it was music to our ears. The Siegel+Gale design team built on the “building on belief” concept with the fact that beliefs define who and what we are. For TCS, it was time to reveal the true self and bring what was inside TCS out into the world.
With that, the team journeyed inside the existing logo and pulled out the colour – a metaphor for the entire assignment – and added those colours to images of people, in the same way, TCS adds colour to their customers and employees’ lives. This colourful and human imagery works in harmony with a structured communications system which helps TCS communicate consistently through many different channels, using pink as an accent colour.
Rajashree also sought simplicity in the process, with the project handled by a small core working team accountable to the board and CEO. As Rajashree says, “if you have too many actors involved, it just becomes too complicated.” The launch of the rebrand took place early in 2021, and Rajashree’s team have found it easy to implement: TCS adapts to change fast, and those changes can happen quickly when they’re necessary.
Be who you are, not what you want to be
And as with any change, it’s a process of both creation and curation – something Rajashree calls “a living system” where the only question that matters is, does it feel like us? “We’re certainly presenting a more human and aspirational image and this new brand is taking us on that journey”, says Rajashreee – and a glance at the numerous TCS LinkedIn pages and other social feeds pays testimony to that fact.
This curation works because the core idea is remarkably simple, leading to an evolution that is, says Rajashree, “extremely organic, feels like part of us, and doesn’t feel alien.”
When Rajashree began the process to reimagine the TCS brand, she met with more than a few agencies – and when an agency asked what she wanted TCS to become, she knew them to be the wrong partner. Because for Rajashree at TCS, and for Siegel+Gale too, the question that really matters is not who do you want to become, but who you are, to begin with.
Putting workers first: technology and the workplace of the future
A year of global pandemic has transformed many lives, both in the long and short term. With any complex change such as this, there are positive and negative factors at hand. As the pandemic has progressed, society has had the opportunity to learn and advance.
When restrictions were initially implemented a year ago, few could have predicted what the outcome would be. It is important to recognise what individuals have learned about working since social distancing became necessary, as well as how ready they were to digitalise daily tasks and trust a completely virtual environment. The urgency to adapt has altered our working habits at an unbelievable speed – and it is unlikely that anything can be done to reverse this.
Technology as an ally
Pre-pandemic, there was a lot of competition between technologies, particularly with artificial intelligence (AI)-based robotisation. The workplace has become increasingly shaped around humans, as opposed to the specific tasks those humans had to perform, as in the past. How technology affects and improves the experience is an essential part – offices are a combination of physical and virtual elements, integrated and seamless environments in which daily tasks are performed. The co-operation between humans and AIs is central to the new workplace concept, one that can take advantage of wearable and implantable devices.
The physical portion
For some jobs, the physical presence of employees is unavoidable. That said, the pandemic has proven that there are a huge number of roles which have transportable physical elements. Among these elements, the role of AI-based robots will become increasingly important. Human and robot co-operation enables employees to be technologically and psychologically supported during the working activity, and enhances effectiveness, efficiency and the digitalisation of tasks. The worker and the robot can be either located in the same place, or organised to cover the fixed physical portion of the workplace, according to the needs of the specific activity.
Connectivity is key
The most impactful element of the new workplace approach is the virtual domain. This enables vastly increased data-storage capability, five-sense-based interactions and augmented presence of co-workers and experts, thanks to cloud, hyper-connectivity and hologram technologies. Connectivity is a major enabler here, as it allows the integration between fixed physical, transportable physical and virtual components in a distributed workspace concept. It is based on the availability of broad coverage, low latency, high speed, capacity, security and reliable and flexible connectivity infrastructures. Software-defined paradigms are allies to both networking and storage and data centres in achieving this.
The new workplace approach puts humans at the core of each job by using the most advanced technologies to shape the workplace around the worker. This evolutionary pattern will create a workplace with improved flexibility, digitalisation, performance and efficiency of daily tasks, resulting in a society able to take full advantage of the continuous progress of both connectivity and robotisation technologies.
The article was written by Marina Ruggieri on behalf of IEEE
Why changing workplace culture demands better technology
A recent Barco report analysing changing workplace culture since the onset of Covid found that hybrid working – a blend of remote and office work – is the new preferred way of working. Even as restrictions lift and employees enjoy returning to the cameraderie of the office in greater numbers, there is still a desire for remote work. However, despite this trend people are struggling with virtual and hybrid meetings.
The Barco meeting barometer, published every quarter – which measures how people experience meetings – has plummeted since 2019, from +63 on the index to -25 in 2020. The main issue behind the drop is low participant engagement. One contributing factor was that remote collaboration did not come naturally to 49 per cent of those polled.
That said, 80 per cent of respondents believed easy-to-use tech could make not just virtual meetings better but also in-person ones.
Employees expect more from meeting rooms
These figures show a clear need for improved tech in order to foster greater participant engagement, while at the same time supporting hybrid working methods.
As far as the technical barriers to hybrid meetings are concerned, meeting rooms are not adequately equipped for hybrid work. Sixty-five per cent of employees struggle with different setups in meeting rooms, especially when moving from one meeting room to the next.
Meanwhile, 48 per cent of respondents reported having trouble connecting to the AV peripherals such as display, camera, speakers and microphones, often not knowing which cable is the right one. A whopping 78 per cent said they wished they could just walk into an in-person meeting room and join a call without having to connect to cables (78 per cent). In short, employees want to be able to brainstorm and collaborate without the interruptions caused by technical issues. The predominant feeling among those returning to the office is that if they are going to physically make the commute, they want much more from a meeting and meeting room than they did previously – otherwise they’d just work from home, connecting via Zoom or Teams. But even in the virtual realm, the sheer number of online meetings everyone attended over the past year and a half has not just given the work world Zoom/Teams fatigue, it has also led to higher standards for tech, from gear such as cameras, microphones and speakers, to screen sharing.
New methods of working
Naturally, bring your own meeting (BYOM) and bring your own device (BYOD) have become de rigueur, especially as laptops have become the interface to the world since lockdown. Video conferencing is not just the new normal, it’s the new expectation that meeting rooms be equipped with the best this technology has to offer in terms of audio and video. Added to this is the new focus on employee-centricity. Employers are well aware that employees have had a lot more time during lockdown to think about what they want out of life and, by extension, their jobs. They need strong incentives to come back to the office, beyond just the social interaction aspect.
Employers need to prioritise and invest in tech
This means offering flexible options that meet employee needs from a compatibility standpoint and collaborative tools that boost meeting productivity through enhanced interaction. The result is a meeting experience that is inspiring, immersive and has a better all-around flow. It’s also no longer afford to have to spend time trying to sync systems or get on the same page technologically speaking. To thrive in today’s climate, employers need to foster a dynamic meeting environment through technology that is user-friendly and which requires no training or setup management so that workers can connect with each other instead of wasting time wrestling with meeting set-up parameters.
Connect to the future with ClickShare
Barco’s ClickShare offers a possible solution. Agnostic, wireless and fully integrated, the ClickShare hub makes hybrid meetings as intuitive and straightforward as face-to-face ones. With ClickShare Conference, meeting participants can host video calls from their laptop and go beyond what is possible with a traditional UCC platform such as Zoom, MS Teams or WebEx alone. With ClickShare Present, users can even enhance collaboration and interactivity in fixed conference rooms by bringing their own device.
Whatever they prefer, ClickShare gives the power back to employees. People can enter the conference room, turn on their laptop, plug in the ClickShare button or use the desktop app, and join the conversation. Whether they bring their own device or go fully agnostic by choosing their own UCC, ClickShare meetings can always start on time and without IT-related delay. Meeting hosts also feel more comfortable and confident, as they are running the meeting from their laptop or mobile device.
Discover more from our 2021 Hybrid meeting research whitepaper.
Tailoring an appropriate response to a seismic shift in working habits
Fora CEO and co-founder Enrico Sanna explores the arguments for working from home versus the office and highlights the new office model that employers must adopt to keep their workforce happy and productive.
As the country returns to some semblance of “normality”, the only certainty about the future of the office is uncertainty. Will you return fulltime? Will you adopt a hybrid or flexible model? Will your staff stay home permanently? These are all legitimate questions, without simple answers.
Around 75 per cent of employees want a hybrid working model, according to a recent YouGov poll. Indeed, two-thirds of UK businesses plan to keep staff working from home for at least part of the week, according to the professional body of the Institute of Directors. A combination of home and office working seems inevitable in this brave new world. But deciding what that blend will look like can be problematic.
Fora offer a solution to the immediate need for flexible and adaptable workspaces that put people and experience first. Banning the antiquated one-size-fits-all hot-desking approach, an activity-based working model identifies the needs of each business to deliver a bespoke design, particular to the required tasks of the company – from presentations, ideation and soft collaboration to the team or quiet focus.
“If employers and landlords do not understand what people want and create spaces that fulfil those basic human needs, then it goes without saying that the office is not fit for purpose”
More and more businesses understand that a workplace should not be centred around a desk but rather a well-designed, engaging work environment. Organisations are increasingly realising that the office must be fit for purpose, delivering agile settings from collaborative spaces to places to work quietly and focus. What’s needed is a bespoke approach where a company designs its office around its employees. This is what Fora aims to provide with Tailored Office, a space with different “settings” that address the various needs that organisations have.
What matters is that these “settings” are designed around tasks. The theory is that an office fit for purpose will boost effectiveness and creativity. And “tailoring” doesn’t end with the fit-out.
Fora will monitor the space and report monthly on how it’s being used so that it can be tweaked if necessary. At a time when we are reimagining what an office is, the idea that it can be designed for how a business actually works – especially in how it can provide spaces for tasks not easily achieved remotely – makes sense. The office’s role as a gathering place is critical, and the workplace must create a sense of community and connectivity – meaningful, human, productive. Without this, businesses will find themselves at major risk.
Business owners are going from “chaining people to a desk”, which was the most cost-effective way to organise an office, to working from home. They’re saving more, but without considering the value of all the added benefits that a properly designed office produces. If employers and landlords do not understand what people want and create spaces that fulfil those basic human needs, then it goes without saying that the office is not fit for purpose. Solemn, soulless cubicles and grey meeting rooms are not conducive to encouraging office working, especially after a year spent at home.
If employers don’t create an environment that is better than being at home – sofa-bound with the cat and surrounded by one’s creature comforts – then it is hardly surprising that employees will choose to work there.
We’ve been given a fresh start to consider how our businesses really thrive and how our employees deliver their best. Through tailored design and employee-centricity, your workspace becomes a powerful asset, creating an inspirational environment that will enable your people to produce their best work in the most creative and efficient manner, helping to build the best possible company.
We all contribute to a business in ways beyond mere output. Our aptitude for collaboration, presentation, focus and entertainment is inherently unique. An office fit for purpose will recognise this, playing to and utilising each employee’s abilities to deliver the best work, not the most work. Our uniqueness is what makes us valuable. What employees bring to the table goes far beyond the number of hours spent sitting at it.
Offering tailored workspaces for forward thinkers, Fora is on an exciting journey to reimagine the working day. Its unique designs invite people and businesses to feel “Wonderful at Work” through conscious design, a curated programme of events and a 360-degree wellness offering.
Since launching in Clerkenwell, London in 2017, co-founders Enrico Sanna and Katrina Larkin have grown the Fora network to 13 locations across London and Reading, with six future spaces in the pipeline.
To learn more please visit: foratailoredoffice.com
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM FORA
Digital threats may be closer than you realise
Defending a perimeter is a concept that is as old as the first time anyone had something of value. And there is a natural perception that we can better control and keep an eye on something in close proximity to us.
It’s tempting for organisations to see their computer systems in the same way, to hold them physically very close. But in the context of a modern enterprise trying to become digitised as fast as possible to keep up with and beat the competition, the abstract nature of blending on-premises, cloud and partner resources can blur the lines in favour of the bad actors. We have to start thinking of all of our computing resources as being in hostile territory.
“Zero trust” is a term that has been used recently to represent a set of principles that help network defenders see their home networks as hostile territory. A person who walks through a cyber-security vendor hall, or consumes marketing collateral, might come away with a lot of conclusions about exactly what “zero trust” is, but I think that the penny has finally dropped and everyone now understands that this is very important to get right.
Taking advantage of vulnerabilities in on-premises systems is one beachhead that has recently become popular with attackers. Ultimately, systems that are on-premises are there because they are sensitive – well-known examples include the Microsoft Exchange server, SolarWinds and even the holy of holies, Microsoft CA. Many organisations have moved on and started to use cloud versions of their email server, their security management and their public key infrastructure (PKI), but tens of thousands of organisations haven’t, and have suffered.
What all of these trusted on-premises systems have in common is that their vulnerabilities have invited attack, and enabled the attacker to establish a beachhead. In the case of Microsoft CA, recent research shared at the Black Hat conference has introduced tools to attack configuration weaknesses and steal root keys to forge identities in-home networks. Thankfully, researchers have also released tools to help mitigate those weaknesses, but it requires work and technical knowledge to do it right. We have to face the fact that these on-premises systems are showing their age. Keeping ageing systems close to the chest, and placing too much trust in what is nearest, is becoming a weakness, not a strength.
Call it zero trust, or whatever you need to justify the effort to change, but the age of overestimating behind-the-perimeter systems is over. The new perimeter is the identity of the nodes connected to you. Using the right credential form factor is important to express that identity. Digital certificates are the right form factor in many cases, and lifecycle management of those identities has evolved to handle the scale. Protecting the integrity of data going across hostile network boundaries starts with authenticated sessions with encrypted communication. The goal is that, in the event of an attacker achieving a beachhead, their next lateral move in your network won’t be as easy as it is now.
by Jason Soroko CTO, PKI, Sectigo
020 4519 2097, sectigo.com
INDUSTRY VIEW FROM SECTIGO
Video is replacing in-office interactions and reshaping the workday
In March 2020, offices around the world abruptly shuttered. Workers grabbed their laptops and left en masse, not realising that in some cases they would never return.
Most businesses weren’t ready. Stressed out IT and HR staff had to quickly mobilise, shipping critical equipment (more laptops, video cameras and ergonomic chairs) out to homebound employees, trying their best to recreate secure office environments in spare bedrooms and kitchens.
18 months later, we’ve learned a lot.
We’ve learned that people can be quite productive in those spare bedrooms, if properly equipped. That most of that expensive office space is not really needed. And that video can be a good substitute for almost any kind of in-person interaction.
Videoconferencing has become the primary venue for work interactions
Even now, with Covid-related restrictions easing in many parts of the world, many companies are choosing to stay remote or at least offer employees the choice of remote or in-office work. This means videoconferencing remains the primary choice for work interactions. Companies are moving from equipping employees for videoconferencing to focusing on boosting engagement for video interactions, such as:
Encourage visibility: When everyone (or most of a team) is remote, visibility is crucial – people need to see each other. Phone, email or chat are great for quick questions, but longer conversations are best held via video conference, so people can see each other and feel more connected.
Focus on developing bonds within teams: In a remote-work world, people won’t run into each other in the corridor or canteen – you have to be deliberate about facilitating those bonds. Develop rituals, such as a Thursday afternoon office Happy Hour or Tuesday morning stand-up meeting, to help build and maintain relationships.
Keep management aligned: Pre-Covid, most companies organised periodic management offsites to discuss strategy. Now, companies are holding those sessions online, using video conferencing as a means to discuss and collaborate. It’s crucial to keep these going and maybe hold them more often than before (at Livestorm, we do it monthly), to ensure managers feel connected to and aligned with the company’s direction.
Keep people accountable: Keeping tabs on people when they are remote is definitely a challenge, and those who previously practised ‘management by walking around’ need a new approach. Task management apps such as Trello are becoming more important, as are product management apps that allow people to collaborate on product development from multiple locations. This technology enables managers (and teams) to focus on the same KPIs and gives visibility into progress.
Embrace asynchronous communications: When people are working remotely, and from different time zones, asynchronous communications are inevitable. While this isn’t new, it may be exacerbated right now, when many of your employees – freed to work from anywhere – have departed for new locales. Be sure to record live video conferencing sessions and make them available for later viewing in one space, available at all times and easily searchable – whether they are internal meetings or external ones such as product training, case studies or demos.
Look for ways to boost engagement for virtual events: In the past 15 months, we’ve seen almost every type of gathering move online, from sporting events to meetings and conventions. However, keeping virtual participants engaged is a challenge. In a Livestorm survey conducted in April 2021, 40 per cent of respondents reported experiencing attention and concentration difficulties when using video communication tools (with many admitting they tended to work on other things during video conferences). Increasingly, companies are starting to transition from video conferencing to video engagement platforms that have special features designed to boost engagement during their internal and external events, such as social sharing tools, polls, chats and emojis.
Do companies still need physical offices at all?
Many companies ask: do we still need our physical offices? Even if the answer is yes, your space could likely be reduced or change shape. At Livestorm, we currently have about 150 employees. Our headquarters has space for 30, and with most of our employees working remotely with occasional visits to the office, that is enough space for us. Rather than assigning desks, employees use an online calendar to reserve a spot for the day, and we have more lounge-type meeting and collaboration spaces than before, since most people who do come into the office are doing so for face time with team members. It feels more like a co-working space than a traditional office.
Because most of the staff are remote, and Livestorm has technology such as video conferencing and Slack in place, we are constantly connected – possibly more so than when we worked in individual cubicles and offices at our headquarters location, sometimes going hours or even the whole day without physical interaction with anyone else.
Before 2020, the Livestorm team was building software mostly targeted at marketers. We would help them organise their online events faster and boost engagement. But now, video has become an enabler to change the way we work – it is not the sole prerogative of marketers anymore. Whether it’s a board meeting, virtual selling or remote onboarding, the use cases for video engagement platforms have significantly increased. With the growing prevalence of remote or hybrid work environments, we’re now in a place where video engagement can provide value anywhere in the enterprise.
To explore this topic further, read Livestorm’s 2021 US Video Conferencing Trends Report
by Gilles Bertaux, Co-Founder and CEO, Livestorm
The changing work habits of a nation
What does it mean when you say, “I’m going to work ”? Clearly, after the most horrific pandemic of our lifetimes, it does not mean what it did just a couple of years ago.
Our homes have become our offices, classrooms and gyms. Most, if not all, of our interactions with colleagues went virtual at some point over the past 18 months. Even now, with the success of the UK’s huge vaccination programme, it is unlikely working habits will return to “normal” any time soon.
For business leaders it is clear the nature of how and where we work has shifted forever. Work is no longer a place: it’s what you do and how you do it.
This sea change was set in motion before the pandemic, however. Businesses were already benefiting from increased data infrastructure capabilities, more sophisticated communications and an ongoing digital transformation. Covid-19 acted as fuel to the spark, accelerating the digital transformation that was already beginning to reshape the working world.
Research by industry analyst Gartner shows 74 per cent of companies will permanently shift to more remote workforces. By 2024, Gartner expects there will be 600 million remote workers worldwide. Our customers agree. They expect all meetings to have at least one remote attendee in the future, and therefore for all meetings to need video facilities. Meeting rooms will have to change dramatically as a result. In the past, we built conference rooms that looked and worked just like the last hundred rooms before them. We installed complex control technology that forced people to learn how to use it, and we conducted our meetings to conform to the requirements of that design. Our conversations were about “endpoints”. And, I might add, we’ve been just about universally disappointed.
The hybrid working future will require a more comprehensive approach. We need to offer customers the combined hardware, software and services to connect people, spaces and technology. Analysts estimate that of the roughly 50 million conference rooms in the world, fewer than 10 per cent are video-enabled. Clearly that will no longer support the vastly increased numbers of remote workers.
“It is clear the nature of how we work has shifted forever. Work is no longer a place: it’s what you do and how you do it”
The technology for many improvements already exists. Artificial intelligence and machine learning mean one no longer needs to pick up a remote control or decipher a complex touch panel to start a meeting or adjust camera shots. The cameras are now smart enough to make quality images and follow all the action automatically. Unwanted background noise can also be cancelled out, leaving just the speaker’s voice.
More innovations are on the horizon, including indexing and analysing video meetings, automatic transcriptions and highlights, simplifying meeting initiation and measuring sentiment after a call.
Our mission is to connect people, technology and spaces so that we can work together seamlessly, wherever we may be. This is how we will deliver the future of work. We’re well on our way there.
A new, more agile generation will reshape the world of work entirely
Three years ago I was asked by one of the world’s leading banks to transform the 100,000 employees of its retail banking operation into an efficient, dynamic and agile workforce capable of facing the challenges of the 2020s. At the time I thought this was fanciful. Today I think it was prescient.
I’m 57. Even before the pandemic, the customs and assumptions of my generation, in business as in life, were in question. In business, the concept of a select few calling the shots based on superior information, experience and connections was already looking threadbare. Today the need for the agility, efficiency and resilience my banking clients were seeking is urgent. We have reached the tipping point, not least in the form of the jump-shift in consumers workforce expectations and needs we have seen in the pandemic. Meanwhile a little-recognised phenomenon encapsulates the new dynamic and provides, perhaps, the basis for that drive for into agility for businesses everywhere.
The inversion of the organisation
In organisations of all kinds, the people with first-hand knowledge of markets and customers are those on the front line who deal directly with both. While organisations have long used systems to gather intelligence about their operations, that intelligence is broadly financial, inferred and retrospective. Decisions were – and still are – taken in forums away from the customer, based on limited intelligence and shaped by the collective experience of the “executive team”.
The advent of digital channels and teams which combine technical knowledge, iterative development methods and direct feedback from rea l-time customer behaviour have permanently diminished the role of marketers and strategists. The greatest insight into customer behaviour and commercial strategy in the digital organisation lies in these teams, and, with the democratisation of wider market knowledge, the inversion of the traditional organisational pyramid now seems not just desirable but inevitable.
What will shape the new sociology of the workplace?
With the logic of organisational inversion growing clearer, so too are a series of factors that are also reshaping the present and future workforce. As the future accelerates toward us, three principal legacies of our collective past stand in the way and pose additional challenges.
The barriers of bias, which have kept so many from gaining and holding positions of influence and creativity, are being dismantled. Businesses and individuals now increasingly accept that it is not just the macro-inefficiencies of discrimination that matter, but the moral stance and values of the organisation themselves. McKinsey will tell you that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 per cent more likely to have superior financial returns. I can tell you that if your organisation is not avowedly fair and responsible, in this and many other dimensions, young people will not want to work for you, nor will they buy your goods or services.
True digital natives are emerging. We are now seeing the first children of the 21st century enter the workplace and their attitudes and expectations have been shaped wholly in the era of the internet. Armed with information, resources and opportunities that their parents struggle to comprehend, these people are our biggest opportunity it y for new skills and innovation, as well as the prime consumers of the future.
There may be fewer of them, but they will have a greater impact on the success of a modern business than any previous generation and their values and expectations will be far more influential. The gig economy, Black Lives Matter and Me Too have taught them harsh lessons in both the uses and abuses of economic and social power. Now the post-pandemic working model has given them huge scope to work where, how and for whom they like. They will gather information and exercise those freedoms far more assiduously than any generation before.
Climate change will transcend all other challenges to organisations and businesses in the widest sense. Almost unimaginable changes to consumption, infrastructure and activity will be required. Our collective ability, in business and in society, to face, solve and overcome the problems of decarbonisation are now the sternest test of our industrialised society and the greatest force compelling change in how we organise and mobilise capital and assets in commerce and in public service.
A new paradigm for the 21st-century organisation?
Our societies need organisations and structures to which people align and contribute at different stages of their lives and careers. There will never be a nation of freelancers: coordination, collective learning and economies of scale will be needed for efficiency and effect on the global basis on which we now work.
New structures and dynamics in our organisations and in critical employer/employee relationships are needed. Already, young people are demanding flexibility, responsibility, development and a sense of deeper meaning and purpose in their organisations. They see new choices in where and how they work. The employee bargain is, for them, different.
To meet these ideals and attract the skills and energy that are sorely needed within the continuing imperatives facing any enterprise in our capitalist economies, we must accelerate the development of the agile organisations that my banking clients dreamed of.
Agility, in the sense now current in business, is no longer just the be-all and end-all of the digital economy. In their digital homeland, agile practices bring decision-makers and frontline staff into the same debates and rooms in search of better and faster developments in products and services of every kind. The deeper implications of this seachange for whole organisations are now sensed by many business leaders; for others, they will become clear soon enough. The greater resilience, creativity and energy available to organisations formed and working in this “agile” way may not be enough to take us through this critical period of our development as a society in the widest sense. But they can, and should, be an essential part of our response to the gathering challenges ahead.
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Half of unvaccinated workers say they’d rather quit than get a shot – but real-world data suggest few are following through
Are workplace vaccine mandates prompting some employees to quit rather than get a shot?
A hospital in Lowville, New York, for example, had to shut down its maternity ward when dozens of staffers left their jobs rather than get vaccinated. At least 125 employees at Indiana University Health resigned after refusing to take the vaccine.
And several surveys have shown that as many as half of unvaccinated workers insist they would leave their jobs if forced to get the shot, which has raised alarms among some that more mandates could leadf to an exodus of workers in many industries. New York, for example, is preparing for an exodus of health care workers – and may even call in the National Guard to help – as its vaccine mandate takes effect on Sept. 27, 2021.
But how many will actually follow through?
In June 2021, we conducted a nationwide survey, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, that gave us a sample of 1,036 people who mirrored the diverse makeup of the U.S. We plan to publish the survey in October.
We asked respondents to tell us what they would do if “vaccines were required” by their employer. We prompted them with several possible actions, and they could check as many as they liked.
We found that 16 per cent of employed respondents would quit, start looking for other employment or both if their employer instituted a mandate. Among those who said they were “vaccine hesitant” – almost a quarter of respondents – we found that 48 per cent would quit or look for another job.
Separately, we found in our survey that 63 per cent of all workers said a vaccine mandate would make them feel safer.
But while it is easy and cost-free to tell a pollster you’ll quit your job, actually doing so when it means losing a paycheck you and your family may depend upon is another matter.
And based on a sample of companies that already have vaccine mandates in place, the actual number who do resign rather than get the vaccine is much smaller than the survey data suggest.
Houston Methodist Hospital, for example, required its 25,000 workers to get a vaccine by June 7. Before the mandate, about 15 per cent of its employees were unvaccinated. By mid-June, that percentage had dropped to 3 per cent and hit 2 per cent by late July. A total of 153 workers were fired or resigned, while another 285 were granted medical or religious exemptions and 332 were allowed to defer it.
At Jewish Home Family in Rockleigh, New Jersey, only five of its 527 workers quit following its vaccine mandate. Two out of 250 workers left Westminster Village in Bloomington, Illinois, and even in deeply conservative rural Alabama, a state with one of the lowest vaccine uptake rates, Hanceville Nursing & Rehab Center lost only six of its 260 employees.
Delta Airlines didn’t mandate a shot, but in August it did subject unvaccinated workers to a US$200 per month health insurance surcharge. Yet the airline said fewer than 2 per cent of employees have quit over the policy.
And at Indiana University Health, the 125 workers who quit are out of 35,800 total employees, or 0.3 per cent.
Making it easy
Past vaccine mandates, such as for the flu, have led to similar outcomes: Few people actually quit their jobs over them.
And our research suggests in public communications there are a few things employers can do to minimize the number of workers who quit over the policy.
It starts with building trust with employees. Companies should also make it as easy as possible to get vaccinated – such as by providing on-site vaccine drives, paid time off to get the shot and deal with side effects, and support for child care or transportation.
Finally, research shows it helps if companies engage trusted messengers including doctors, colleagues and family to share information on the vaccine.
In other words, vaccine mandates are unlikely to result in a wave of resignations – but they are likely to lead to a boost in vaccination rates.
Jack J. Barry, Postdoctoral Research Associate in Public Interest Communications, University of Florida; Ann Christiano, Director, Center for Public Interest Communications, University of Florida, and Annie Neimand, Research Director, Center for Public Interest Communications, College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida